Leftist South Korean Government: ‘Now Is the Best Time’ for U.S.-North Korea Talks

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un
Olivier Douliery/Pool via Bloomberg/Getty/AFP

A South Korean diplomat told reporters Wednesday that the leftist government of President Moon Jae-in believes “now is the best time” for dialogue between the United States and the rogue communist regime in North Korea.

The diplomat, identified by South Korean outlet Yonhap as an anonymous “high-ranking South Korean diplomatic official,” urged North Korea to reach out to Washington for political discussions, suggesting that the Trump administration has opened “its doors for talks.”

“Now is the best time … The U.S. could close the door shut anytime. It is important for the North to stop provocations and come out for talks,” the official reportedly said.

The official grounded his claim that the Trump administration would be open to talks in remarks that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made in December, suggesting that the two sides should have some contact.

“Though their rhetoric has been strong, Tillerson signaled that talks could be possible if the North stops provocations for some time, and Trump has also joined in this,” the official claimed. “There has never been any time before that (U.S. officials) have said this.”

In December, Tillerson said the State Department was “ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. We are ready to have the first meeting without precondition.”

“Let’s just meet, and we can talk about the weather if you want,” he offered.

In the past, President Trump has told Tillerson via Twitter that any contact with North Korea is a “waste of time.” Tillerson himself rapidly backtracked his “without precondition” claim, stating, instead, that he had always required the condition of a cessation of belligerent activities, such as missile and nuclear weapons tests.

President Moon has launched talks with North Korea that began in January, following dictator Kim Jong-un’s relatively moderate rhetoric in his traditional New Year’s Day speech. Kim addressed the South Korean government, rejecting calls to end his illegal nuclear program but attempting to calm fears in Seoul by stating that “North Korea’s weapons are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, China or Russia.”

South Korea reached out to the North for talks following these remarks, talks which have resulted in North Korea’s being welcomed at next month’s Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. North Korea is expected to send a delegation of more than 400 people to the games, including athletes, cheerleaders, and government officials. The two Koreas have agreed to enter the Opening Ceremonies together, carrying a unification flag, and the two will field a joint women’s ice hockey team. The hockey team’s creation required South Korean athletes to be expelled from the team to make way for the less-qualified North Korean replacements.

North Korea has already begun to produce flashy pro-communist propaganda for the Games. The South Korean newspaper the Chosun Ilbo highlighted several posters and videos published by the regime last week, which promoted Korean unification under communism and “seems generally designed to give the impression that it is North Korea that is hosting the games.”

American broadcaster NBC News will also soon air a report from the Masikryong Ski Resort in North Korea, which NBC itself has reported is largely run by “volunteer” labor.

The Olympics diplomacy has sent Moon’s popularity, and the South Korean government’s in general, plummeting among South Koreans, who see Pyongyang as taking advantage of diplomacy for a propaganda campaign. Seoul has insisted that North Korea has not “hijacked” the Olympics for its personal agenda and now appears to be tempting the United States to also engage in talks with the rogue regime to make its own decision to do so appear more favorable to South Koreans.

North Korean state media have not abandoned the vitriol it typically reserves for South Korean conservatives because of its presence at the Olympics. In columns this week, the state newspaper Rodong Sinmun called those skeptical of the communist dictatorship “human scum obsessed with pro-U.S. sycophancy and confrontation with the fellow countrymen.”

One column targeted conservative political party leader Hong Jun Phyo in particular, which Rodong called “a would-be rapist” and “Hong Trump.” Some have, indeed, compared Hong to the U.S. president for suggesting that South Korea is a mature enough government to handle possession of nuclear weapons.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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